Dinner that evening was laid out by Lial and Muel—sweet arammu cakes and a pitcher of fresh water. “The rations are down again, Jaúl.” Lial tapped the pitcher with a finger. “This is all we have to drink until tomorrow.”
Jaúl clasped his hands around the glass, swirling the clear liquid. “I know. The situation grows more desperate by the day. But it isn’t the water shortage that concerns me most.”
He looked straight at Laúm.
“It’s the planet. The water that surrounds Tiamatu is rising faster than we predicted. The melting of the south and north poles is feeding on itself. As one section of ice breaks off, another is exposed to the sun and the warming seas, and the cycle repeats. Soon Tiamatu will be swallowed forever, and there will be nothing to see but water.” Jaúl placed his glass on the table and waved off Lial’s offer of more. “Laúm,” said Jaúl, “tomorrow you are to accompany me to the towers of Tiamatu. Your presence has been requested by the First Citizen. It is time you learned the truth.”
Laúm had trouble containing his excitement in the cramped room and walked outside after dinner. The night was cooler than even a week ago. Winter was coming, and with it would come clearer nights and mornings without the summer fog. He touched his glasses and called Alluria.
“I am going to the tower tomorrow with my father,” he proudly announced. “I am going to meet the First Citizen.”
Alluria’s image did not appear in front of him. She had blocked the video but kept the audio going. “I’m getting ready for bed,” she whispered and…well…it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”
Laúm swallowed hard. If only that were true.
“I am going with my father as well,” Alluria said. “Sophus is coming, too.”
What? Laúm asked himself. We’re all going? Sophus is going? He didn’t feel so special any longer. Sophus was his friend, but he often wondered what Alluria saw in him. Laúm considered Sophus lucky. But as for himself, it mattered not. Others, more worthy than he, would be waiting if Sophus stumbled. So it might as well be his friend for whom Alluria had set her sights. It was a bittersweet situation.
“What’s going on?” he asked. “Do you know why they’re asking us to come? Anyone else but us?”
Alluria giggled and whispered, “How would I know, silly? There’s some secret thing going on but my father won’t tell me.” Laúm could hear the click of her hair wand. The light whirring noise meant she must be brushing her short locks into place. Her silken hair would be shimmering. He imagined Alluria standing in front of the mirror, naked, and he bit his lower lip while a flush of warmth grew in his pants. “My father’s not very good at keeping secrets.” She snickered. “If I can get it out of him, I’ll call you.” There was an indistinguishable noise in the background. Got to go.”